Mohammad Ismail Kawasi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s health ministry, said authorities believe that along with the 20 dead so far, 35 people were also wounded in the attack.
More explosions and gunfire echoed from inside the mosque well into the afternoon. The mosque had been packed with worshippers for Friday prayers, the high point of the Muslim week, Jamil added.Mir Hussain Nasiri, a member of Afghanistan’s Shiite clerical council, said the cleric who was performing the prayers was killed, but did not give his name. Nasiri said the gunmen have taken over the portion of the mosque with the separate prayer areas for men and women.
He said the mosque could accommodate up to 1,000 people. A sprawling cavernous prayer hall dominated the main floor. The second floor is where the women pray. Nasiri said when police initially sought to get into the mosque, the attackers blocked the door leading to the second floor, which he said would mean they are holding the women who were there as hostages.
In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan said through its Aamaq news agency that two of its fighters carried out the assault, seeking martyrdom. It did not give further details.